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Historical Note – Times of Turmoil

It is time to come clean: Erin and Duncan ended up in Pennsylvania because I was so thrilled to find a colony without anti-miscegenation laws, thinking this would be something for a safe harbour for my couple. Unfortunately, while Pennsylvania did not have such laws during the first two decades in the 18th century, by 1725-26, the colony had implemented them. There went any hope of allowing Erin and Duncan to remain in Pennsylvania . . .

So, what were anti-miscegenation laws? Already in the 17th century, Maryland and Virginia implemented laws that forbade marriage and/or sexual relations between white people and black or coloured people. Well, bar the white slaveowner forcing himself on his slaves. The consequences were dire: take the example of Nell butler, a young Irish woman who fell in love with a black slave. They wed and she immediately became enslaved, and all their children were born as slaves. A white man who cohabited with a free woman of colour could find himself forced into indentureship together with her. If they wed, they both ended up enslaved. All of this is of course a consequence of racially-defined slavery: recognising people of colour as acceptable marriage partners to white people would potentially lead to uncomfortable questions about the morality of enslaving a person solely based on the colour of their skin. Laws such as these would survive well into the twentieth century.

In general, Pennsylvania was never as dependent on slave labour as some of the other colonies—with the exception of the three Lower Counties, i.e. Delaware, where slavery was well-established before the arrival of Penn. The early Quakers were hesitant to slavery. It was recommended that slaves  be offered religious instruction and be freed after fourteen years. However, the realities of colonial life meant labour was scarce, and soon enough many Quakers opted for slaves rather than indentured servants. Penn himself recommended buying slaves, as that way you’d have a servant “for life”. And as Duncan says to David Lloyd, Quakers also participated and made money from the slave trade itself.

Chester is the oldest city in Pennsylvania. It was founded by Swedish colonists as Uppland back in 1644, and when William Penn landed there in 1682 on his first visit to his new colony he renamed it Chester. I felt a smaller, less busy place would make for a more comfortable environment for Erin and Duncan, while Chester was large enough to have relevant trade.

I have Duncan and Erin living on the Papegoja Plantation—which does not exist, even if JP, Johan Papegoja, most definitely did. In actual fact, Johan Papegoja and his formidable wife Armegot Printz had their main residence much further south. I am rather impressed by Armegot, something of a colonial termagant who ruled her husband as firmly as the people who served her. Born in Sweden to officer Johan Printz, she arrived to New Sweden in 1643 with her father, who’d been appointed governor of the new Swedish colony. She embraced life on this new continent with open arms, but would eventually be forced to leave and return to Sweden. You can read more about this fascinating lady here!

David Lloyd was born in Wales and came to Pennsylvania in 1686 at Penn’s request. A capable lawyer, he served as Attorney General and designed the colony’s first judicial system. Lloyd firmly believed that it was the General Assembly of Pennsylvania, not the Proprietor—i.e. William Penn—that should have the final say in how Pennsylvania was ruled. Obviously, this caused some friction in his relationship with Penn, but despite this he was appointed Chief Justice in 1718. Lloyd converted to Quakerism in 1691 and moved to Chester in 1700.

Pennsylvania allowed Catholics to settle in the colony and we know that in 1719 a catholic priest, Joseph Greaton, moved to Philadelphia. I have moved his arrival up a couple of years so as to ensure there was a priest available for Esther.

2 thoughts on “Historical Note – Times of Turmoil”

  1. Well done, even attempting to make a credible story in this time frame. I know it happened — probably more often than we imagine. The hardship and cruelty of these laws is ghastly. They show how frightened those rich white men really were, as they slept with a shotgun under the bed and a pistol under their pillow.
    No wonder William Penn retreated to his manor house and turned his back on the compromise he and Fox made with slavery. Principles are expensive things to have,

    1. Sad, though. How a religious movement built firmly on principles of equality so quickly compromised. Not that all quakers did: many were vociferously opposed to slavery throughout.
      Thank you for stopping by!

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